This parent, Modupe Adefeso-Olateju, who is also an educator wrote a brilliant letter for her son’s school as coronavirus pandemic compel many schools to go digital. It is a letter worth reflecting on. See letter below in her words.
I trust you and yours are staying safe and keeping well. This is indeed an unusual time for us all! Thank you for informing me of the school management’s decision to pivot to e-learning. This is appreciated. It is heartening to note that the school has begun training teachers in the use of digital teaching tools and I commend the management and teaching staff for their willingness to build this capacity.
As plans begin to unfold with regard to e-learning, may I suggest that we are guided by evidence from other countries (that already implement blended learning approaches in their education systems) and consider providing training and support for parents as well.
Across the world today, there is an (incorrect) assumption that once digital devices and data are available to children at home, parents can adequately support teachers in the learning process. The truth is that the pandemic has created an unprecedented and overwhelmingly stressful time for many parents who are at home, either continuing to work in often unconducive environments or who are worrying about finances; potential job losses and salary cuts at this time. On top of this, many parents have never been taught the basics of pedagogy and simply do not know how to create conducive learning environments for their children nor how to support a learning process that is now even more complex in its remoteness.
I spend a fair bit of my professional time studying innovations in education, and the organisation I work with, initiated and hosts the annual Education Innovation Summit (NEDIS) and it is from what we have learnt and are still learning through this platform, that I share the following suggestions below. I hope you will consider them as you plan our migration to digital:
- Prior to the start of the e-lessons, convene a remote extra-ordinary PTA meeting with parents to share plans with them and hear from them regarding their capacity to support learning at home – for example, what is their electric power situation? are their jobs considered essential services such that they need to leave their children in the care of nannies or other carers who do not have the capacity to support digital learning? if they have three children, are there sufficient devices to enable the children work simultaneously? The school should also be candid about the challenges it expects to face as we move online. As always, the school management and parents have the same goal in mind – the safety and all-round development of the children
- Please encourage teachers and parents to immerse themselves in the literature on screen time for children and digital safety. Pertaining to screen time, there are guidelines regarding what is optimal per age (as at last year, the World Health Organisation recommended limited or no screen time for children under the age of 5). Too much screen time has been linked to behavioural and attention problems in children. The evidence should guide the duration of daily classes. Regarding digital safety, the UK Home Secretary recently announced that the number of online paedophiles in the UK has increased as a result of the massive shift to online schooling. Nigeria is not immune to this type of crime and both teachers and parents must understand the markers of online stalking, bullying and sexual solicitation. Advisory on software and digital practices that make children less vulnerable should also be provided and understood
- As we pivot to online learning, please do not forget that for younger children, paper-based learning packets are still one of the most effective ways of promoting learning. For pre-primary learners and those in junior primary, being able to scribble, write or draw on and manipulate paper is important. Can the school consider printing and posting curricula material such as worksheets to parents of younger learners? Or can this material be curated by the school each week for parents who can, to download and print at home?
- The physical development of children is key at this time and I hope children will be encouraged to learn through physical play as they would normally do at school. Home conditions vary per family but the physical aspect of learning must continue to be emphasized to parents
I continue to be impressed by the dedication of the school’s teachers and look forward to supporting the process of ensuring that our children can continue to learn even at this time.
Modupe (Mo) Adefeso-Olateju is an education policy expert specialising in public-private partnerships in education. She is Managing Director of The Education Partnership Centre (TEP Centre) and Programme Director of the LEARNigeria Citizen-Led Assessment and Advocacy Programme.